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Child Dev. 2003 Jan-Feb;74(1):221-37.

The infant as onlooker: learning from emotional reactions observed in a television scenario.

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Institute of Human Development, University of California, Berkeley, USA.


Two studies investigated whether 10- and 12-month-olds can use televised emotional reactions to guide their behavior. Infants watched an actress orient toward 1 of 2 novel objects and react with neutral affect during baseline and with positive or negative affect during test. Infants then had 30 s to interact with the objects. In Study 1, 12-month-olds (N = 32) avoided the target object and showed increases in negative affect after observing the negative-emotion scenario. Twelve-month-olds' responses to positive vs. neutral signals did not differ significantly. In Study 2, 10-month-olds (N = 32) attended to the televised presentations but showed no consistent changes in their object interactions or affect. Thus, 12-month-olds used social information presented on television and associated emotional signals with the intended target.

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